I wanted to do something fun for my 18th birthday. My mom suggested getting a group of friends together and going to the Melting Pot for fondue. I had never had fondue, and not wanting to think anymore about the impending plans, I figured, why not? Welp, turns out having a bunch of idiot 17- and 18-year-old kids make their own meal in a pot of steaming hot oil wasn't exactly the best idea. Aside from the salmonella poisoning and second-degree burns we all left with, I was ingrained with generally ridiculous thoughts about this cuisine.
Yet here we are, years later, talking about fondue like the Circle of Life. Luckily, for everyone involved, Geja's Cafe is not the Melting Pot. The small, dark, intimate, and maze-like space has been serving diners for nearly 50 years, which means lots of character and charm. Emphasis on dark and maze-like too, because you literally have to be careful not to bump into random structural poles. Geja's caters to Chicagoans looking for romance or a special occasion, which also might be why anyone under ten years of age is not allowed. The vibe is definitely romantic, but not in an overly cheesy “welcome to the love shack” type of way. Go for a special occasion, with family or a significant other, but please don't take a first date here, because a serious first date fondue session is crossing the line.
In terms of the food, Geja's is your standard fondue restaurant that includes three separate courses: cheese, meat, and dessert (chocolate fondue). We get such a kick out of fondue in general because you cook your own damn meal. While dipping items in cheese and chocolate is easy enough, cooking the main entree in hot oil is pretty much begging for things to go wrong. It makes no f*cking sense, but we'll blame the Swiss and French for that. We feel like we need to be consistently monitoring our cook time with a stop watch app, and the second you get distracted the food is inevitably a mess. Geja's at least provides a smorgasbord of eight different sauces to cover up any over- or undercooked mistakes, so you can have salmonella steak coated in everything from barbecue to spicy apricot sauce if you so choose. Our biggest complaint is actually the subpar chocolate fondue.
Even if we're somewhat skeptical on fondue as cuisine, we support Geja’s. As long as you're there for the right situation, the ambience and do-it-yourself cooking make for some fun. And at the end of the day, that’s something we can get down with. We just hope your self-cooked meal turns out better than ours.
The first course cheese fondue is our favorite part of the meal, and yes, even more so than the chocolate dessert. The blend is a great mix of cheeses and is particularly strong on the white wine notes. Crusty bread, grapes, and apples are all at your disposal for maximum dippage.
It doesn't really matter which dinner you order because the concept remains the same. The choices are a range of combinations including some mix of beef, chicken, lobster, scallop, and shrimp. All orders come with a plate of vegetables and the above-mentioned eight dipping sauces on the side. Good luck out there.
The Chocolate is kind of a disappointment. Not that we expected it to be made from the greatest cocoa beans ever, but it's a bad blend. Did it stop us from coating marshmallows, bananas, rice krispies treats, and pound cake all up in it before dipping into the side of graham cracker crust? Of course not. But it isn't very good.